When a company who have come to define the field of cycle touring and commuting luggage bring their experience to bear on a new range of products you can expect big things. Ortlieb's first range of bikepacking specific frame bags pack in innovation and technology which they have perfected through the years.
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Ortlieb Handlebar Pack (15 litres)
Ortlieb’s handlebar roll claims a fully waterproof construction thanks to Ortlieb's top secret, stitch-free ‘Radio Frequency Welding’. Based around a familiar dry bag construction with a rolltop closure at both ends, the pack is made from polyurethane ripstop nylon with areas of reinforced, heavier duty areas for the attachment points to the bike. Unlike handlebar systems with a separate cradle and bag set up Ortlieb has opted to combine the two into a single unit.
The main weight bearing handlebar straps attach through a reinforced plastic bar, which adds a great deal of stiffness to the set up and helps the bag keep its shape. Velcro straps make this one of the easiest handlebar rolls to set up. Removable 10mm thick foam spacers allow you to dial in the distance your bag sits from the bars to allow better cable routing and accessory positioning. Once in position, webbing straps fit over the velcro to allow for a tighter and more secure fit. A third adjustable velcro strap anchors the bag to the head tube to prevent any unwanted bouncing and swinging.
The British spring and summer have not disappointed for providing a great testing environment for a waterproof bikepacking bag. After many wet trips we can fully attest to Ortlieb’s claims that this is a fully waterproof bag. Sleeping bags have remained completely dry, even through the heaviest of showers. It has even proved capable of taking a complete submersion in a bathtub test, although we would like to advise getting several good twists of the roll top to ensure a seal.
Capacity could be an issue. At 15 litres this is a large bag and while it can be brought in with extra rolls at the ends there isn't much that can be done about the girth. This isn’t a problem on rigid bikes, however once you put suspension in the mix you will want to pay extra attention to tyre clearance. We found that even at high pressures on our 120mm forks, some big hits meant that there was a little tyre rub at times. Stack height and stem angle will all make a difference here so we recommend paying attention to this when setting up.
Ortlieb packs in features from across its existing waterproof products including reflective detailing for visibility on late night road connections, shockcord webbing for stashing outerwear easily and aluminium buckles for attaching the Ortlieb Accessory Pack. One feature sadly absent from the handlebar roll which is found on the seat pack is the purge valve, which allows excess air to escape when rolling the bag closed.
While not as versatile as a two-part cradle and drybag, the Ortlieb handlebar pack is a reliable and secure set up. Weighing in at 417g it also won't be for the ultralight adventurer. However, if you value sturdy construction and reliable waterproofing over a few grammes then this could be the bag for you, especially if you are venturing out in wetter months.
Ortlieb Accessory-Pack (3.5 litres)
This simple removable pack pairs with Ortlieb’s Handlebar Pack (above) to make a really versatile handlebar system. It can be used on its own too as a mini 3.5-litre pack, attaching via a pair of velcro straps, and then integrated back with the handlebar pack via sturdy aluminium buckles. The roll top does a great job of keeping water out and is easy to get into, even with cold wet fingers.
We love the fact that it is easy to remove and take with you when leaving your bike locked up, especially as it comes with a removable strap which allows it to be carried over the shoulder, and it weighs 206g. There is nothing to complain about with this accessory except the £45 / US$48.75 / AU$64.88 price tag, which feels a bit high as it is over half the price of the full handlebar pack.